Happy 4th

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand
singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or
at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of
the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows,
robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

Walt Whitman

Shit I Like

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Anniversaries
  (belated)

1. The Conversation
Coppola’s 1974 classic starring quintessential badass Gene Hackman turned forty last month. Despite its age, The Conversation still draws you into its edgy, psychological puzzle about surveillance and our voyeuristic habit of always looking (but failing to see). Few films of the last twenty or thirty years can match its depth or moody atmosphere, and that final scene of Harry Caul sitting among the rubble of his home playing a lonesome sax number still devastates.

The Atlantic, also noting the film’s anniversary, recommends The Conversation be required viewing for all NSA employees.

2. Grapes of Wrath
Steinbeck’s Great Depression novel turned seventy-five last month. In addition to being one of the great novels set partially in Oklahoma (and being an Okie myself), I’m rereading this bad boy just to be reminded of sentences like these:

And the crops changed. Fruit trees took the place of grain fields, and vegetables to feed the world spread out on the bottoms: lettuce, cauliflower, artichokes, potatoes—stoop crops. A man may stand to use a scythe, a plow, a pitchfork; but he must crawl like a bug between the rows of lettuce, he must bend his back and pull his long bag between the cotton rows, he must go on his knees like a penitent across a cauliflower patch.

3. In Utero, 20th Anniversary Edition
I still remember the night I listened to my friend’s copy of In Utero on my Discman. I thought even then it was better than Nevermind, and I still think In Utero is hands down their best record—one of the few grunge records that can hold its own twenty years later.

As many critics have noted, In Utero owes much of its raw sound to producer Steve Albini (Pixies, Breeders, PJ Harvey), whom Cobain sought out personally to break away from the glossy, over-produced sound of Nevermind. (Check out the production drama backstory involving DGC and remixed tracks ’cause I’m about to reference that shit.) The 20th Anniversary Edition comes in several formats and package options. I went with the The 3-LP vinyl set (180 gram vinyl cut at 45 RPMs) that includes the original album, eight unreleased tracks recorded during the In Utero sessions, and Albini’s original mix for the two singles: “Heart-Shaped Box” and “All Apologies.” (The studio remixed and replaced his original tracks before going into production.) While I agree that Albini’s the main reason In Utero sounds so good—he knows how to record drums better than just about any motherfucker on the planet—I’m still partial to famed R.E.M. producer Scott Litt’s original remixes (click that drama link) of “Heart-Shaped Box” and “All Apologies” due entirely to the fact that those are the first versions I heard and fell in love with, rendering all subsequent mixes inferior for purely nostalgic reasons.

The new set is pricey, but it’s great to finally have all mixes, remixes, and unreleased tracks together in one package. More comprehensive review at Pitchfork if you’re into that sort of thing.

New readings

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Two events:

Red Dirt Offsite Reading
Friday, 2/28, 6-8 pm
VON’s SPIRITS 1225 1st Ave.

Secondary Orality in the U.S. (AWP panel)
Saturday, 3/1, 9:00-10:15 am
Rm 606, WA State Convention Center, Level 6
Secondary orality refers to how technology has allowed oral traditions to re-establish their primacy with respect to printed literature. Panelists will discuss how technology has enhanced the page with elements of sound, music, and video that reinforce the transition back to oral tradition.

Stop by and say hello at the Academy of American Poets booth, #1010.

Brooklyn Poets Workshop

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I’m teaching a workshop for Brooklyn Poets: The Blueprint: Building Manuscripts that Survive the Slush Pile.

Sept. 29 – Oct. 27. Signup or spread the word.

Description: This workshop will focus on the fundamentals and strategies behind preparing short manuscripts for submission to literary journals, writing contests and graduate writing programs. It will be part workshop of student manuscripts (10-12 pages), part survey of the American literary marketplace. Students will read work by published poets, analyze literary journals and discuss the DOs and DON’Ts of the submission process, learning how to identify which journals and magazines will be most receptive to their own particular styles and voices. The ultimate goal of the workshop is to help students put together a manuscript that’s ready for submission.